Continuing my blogging series with “Grieving Forward – Embracing Life Beyond Loss by Susan Duke
Chapter 6: Beyond The Casserole
People may excite themselves in a glow of compassion, not by toasting their feet at the fire and saying, “Lord, teach me more compassion,” but by going and seeking an object that needs compassion. – Henry Ward Beecher
This chapter was a tough one to re-read as it reminded me of the great pain that occurred after my daughter’s death – a pain I didn’t see coming. I renamed the chapter for it was the “Quiet Silence” that broke my heart over and over in the months after Brittany’s death.
The quiet silence came after my family went back to Indiana and other various places. Friends stopped coming by and life went on. My reality was that life wasn’t going on. I felt I was suspended in a place I could not get out of. My life that I knew was no more. It died at 6:55 am on October 13th and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to say and I certainly didn’t know how I was to go on.
What I was left with was a pile of sympathy cards, Tupperware dishes from the food that people brought by in the days after her funeral. I often sat in my loneliness reading those cards over and over again. I needed to hear it was going to be alright. That I was going to be able to breathe again. That I would be able to get up in the morning and be glad that I woke up. It was a dreadful time. And I felt so alone.
I noticed early on, like Susan, that people avoided me. I felt as though I had the plague. What I thought I needed so desperately was someone to hold me and tell me it was going to be ok. To just have a hug would have been so helpful. I know that people didn’t know what to say to me. In most grief books, it’s one of the most challenging themes – people just don’t know what to say, so they say nothing.
I went to church and did my best to move on as if nothing happened. Sometimes I could pull it off and other times, I had to leave the church in tears – the grief so overwhelming and the loneliness unbearable. I had a few good friends at church. Over time one family in particular came to my rescue more than once. Invited me to sit with them every Sunday up front. It was a nice change because just finding a “new” place to sit became stressful. Moving away from the “usual” place Brittany and I used to sit. I just couldn’t stay in that same place.
My friends outside of church, the usual circle of friends broke wide open. I was hurt most of all by that. I know now they didn’t feel comfortable being around me because they didn’t know what to do or say. But at the time – it was devastating to me. I remember one friend saying “you reminded me of what could happen to me”. It was during those first few weeks that I turned my full attention to God and his word. It was the only source of comfort I could find.
I finally was able to go back to work after three weeks. I had an incredible boss and a great group of work friends who supported me often. They brought food, cards, money and the thing I needed most – time. Many donated PTO “paid time off” to me so I could remain off for as long as I needed. Then one day I knew it was time to go back to work. I needed a distraction from the four walls at home. My boss, who I’m sure to this day, doesn’t know the true impact of what she and my co-workers did for me, despite my telling them many times.
My boss said to me “even if you work one hour and then have to go home, that’s progress”. So the first few days were tough. I didn’t make it much longer than an hour the first day. Then as the days and weeks wore on I had returned to a full day and it felt good. There were times though that I had to stop and take a moment to regain my composure, especially when I’d see a teenage girl or someone or something that would remind me of Brittany.
One of the true lessons I learned from this experience is that the quiet silence that a grieving parent or anyone who grieves feels after a loss can be devastating and can prevent them from taking that first step out in faith to reach out and say “I need to talk” or “I just need someone to come and be with me.” I beg of you who read this that if you ever have to befriend anyone who is in the midst of a loss – go to them. Be with them and hug them, comfort them and most of all show them compassion.
Susan wrote “acknowledgement is priceless. When we are grieving, we don’t know how to ask for help. We don’t know what we need. We wait in silence, knowing friends are giving us time, but wondering if friendship will endure now that grief has changed our lives.” This is exactly how I felt and what I experienced. Even from my own family.
I was fortunate to have a few friends that have remained so close to my heart for it was their continued compassion for years after Brittany’s death that gave me the strength to endure. More than they could ever know. They acknowledged my pain by validating me. It was that acknowledgment that I came to know as grace. I know I wrote them letters and talked to them by phone many a time. But honestly I don’t think I could have ever told them in words how much their investment in me meant. So I pray that God gives them grace and an abundance over their lives.
At the end of the chapter Susan talks about life moving on. The guilt that is felt in the beginning when you do move on. That happened to me as well. Now after nearly five years – I can go on and do things without guilt. But it’s in the quiet moments when I look to long at her picture or watch her video that I still feel the sting of grief and I can only ask God to take it away from me. The loss my dear friends is still profound. It’s still just as painful. I have just learned to live with it and to accept God’s grace in the midst.
until next time